Paradise Lost, the greatest epic in English literature history, was composed by John Milton in the year 1665, after seven years labor in the darkness. With great difficulty he found a publisher. Its success was immediate, though, like all his works, it met with venomous criticism. Milton was persecuted by the defenders of the throne after the Restoration because he was a faithful advocator of the Cromwell Government. Hardness of life brought him blindness. But this hard period was the most fruitful time in his literary life.
Paradise Lost, the story taken from the Holy Bible, was written in this period. The story is about how Satan rebels against God and the seduce of Adam and Eve and the lost of Eden, which is known by every Christian. In the end of Yuan Dynasty the great book on peasant rebellion in China, Heroes of the Marshes, was brought out by Shi Nai-an. Shin based his novel on the real historical event combined with the folklores. The story is about how Song Jiang leads his fellows to rebel against the harsh reality. They kill the corrupt official and distribute their money to the poor.Order now
But by following Song Jiangs ideas, he himself and the other rebels surrender at last and become the soldiers of the of the empire. The Pilgrimage to the West has been known by every child ever since the publication in the middle of sixteenth century. Like Heroes of the Marshes, Wu Cheng-En, the author of the novel, also based the story on the folklores. But the book, like Paradise Lost, is based on religious story and we cannot find archetypes of the most of characters in reality. The story begins with the birth of the monkey king and hes rebel against the gods, ends with the fulfillment of his mission.
The body of the novel is about how the monkey king and his fellow escort their master Tang San-Zhang, an eminent monk, from China to India to fetch sutras. The monkey king succeeds in fighting with all the devils on the way to India. The monkey king is a half-monkey half-human thing. Therefore his look and his behavior arouse childrens interests. However, its definitely not a simple Child book. The monkey kings rebellion against gods symbolizes the rebellion against authority and so much more. The significance of the novel enables it to become one of the four greatest classic novels in Chinas literary history.
Some say that Heroes of the Marshes, The Pilgrimage to the West and Paradise Lost are incomparable. One is an epic; the other two are ancient Chinese novels. Furthermore, the novels are quite different from English ones. They view comparative study from a stylistic way, not a thematic way. The three figures were born in different time, different countries, speaking different languages. However, when we exam these three, we shall find amazing similarities in their characters: brave, strong, firm and persistent and rebellious. Song Jiang was the earliest born one.
Two hundred years later, the monkey king was brought forth by Wu Cheng-En. Milton created Satan even later. But we should say Satan is the earliest. Because Miltons ideas were modeled on the Holy Bible, which was an old story made by Jews, while Heroes of the Marshes and The Pilgrimage to the West were based on the contemporary folklore. Although Satan is the earliest, his rebellious spirit is the strongest, we should say. This article is a comparative analysis of the spiritual contents of these three figures, that is to say, an analysis of their rebellious characteristics.
All the characters in literary works are the fictional creations of the authors, but not merely fictional, the background has influence on the construction progress of the character. Paradise Lost was written in the Restoration Period. It was finished in 1665,after Miltons seven years labor in the darkness. Milton was a faithful advocator of the Cromwell Government. After the collapse of the bourgeoisies government, sadness immerged him, but he never lost his courage and fought on with his pen. We cannot say Satan is Milton himself, but at least he is somewhat representation of Miltons and his fellowmens spirits.
The lower class rebelled from time to time as in the long history of feudal China. However, rebellion did not become a common theme of literary creation in the passed time. Wu Cheng-En and Shin Nai-an gather their stories from the folklores, which were prevailing among common people. Therefore, these three works actually are spearheads pointed at the mighty and the obstacles of the human history. Satan, monkey king and Song Jiang rebel for freedom, fight for their destiny. Life is an active fighting for the destiny. But life is cruel and human always has his weakness.
European literary works inherit the traditions of the evaluation criteria of lives of Greek tragedies, that is to say, the European authors esteem the challengers if they have courage and strong will, no matter how the challengers fail or succeed. They actually tend to understand life by analyzing the value of life of the loser. Paradise Lost is a typical story of this kind. When we read classic Chinese novels, we can easily find out the fact that most characters are not active fighters for their destiny, but merely the people fooled by their fates.
They always follow the rules, live in the small world and close their doors to the outside. Just when the destiny strike them, their lives begin to change. Most heroes in Heroes of the Marshes are these kind of people. They rebel because they have no choice, not because they want to change their lives or destiny. However, The Pilgrimage to the West is a different book. The monkey king is a not a passive character, he fight for his destiny and finally succeed. The monkey king is a rare figure in the classic Chinese novels. He has his free will. But he still has great differences when we compare him with Satan.
A comparative study should containing both similarities and differences analyses. This piece of writing will present similarities and differences of these three unsurpassed and hardly equaled works in Chinese and English literature history. (1) Traditionally, Miltons Satan has been compared with Aeschylus Prometheus, and the older edition of Paradise Lost mark many lines in Satans speeches as echoes of Prometheus Bound. But it would be impossible to write a book exploring Miltons debt to Greek drama on the scale of the studies of his epic background. Why we compare Satan with Prometheus?
Because they are heroes, because they are rebellious, because both of them fight against the superior god. The freedom of will is the keystone of Miltons creed. Working through the tradition of an encyclopedic Christian humanism, Milton wrote Paradise Lost, intending to expose the ways of Satan and to justify the ways of God to men. That is to say, Satan in the core is a fighter for his freedom and he is not a one hundred per cent devil. Satan rebels because he thinks that God treats him unfairly. So is the monkey king. The Jade Emperor asks the monkey king to care steeds in the heaven and he think thats unfair.
Then he begins his rebel and therefore brings forth the most glorious chapter in the novel. He has the slightest idea of obedience, obedience to God. When Song Jiang is in Jiang zhou city, he once gets drunk and writes a few pieces of poems afterwards. These poems are telling us that he is not content, but furious, with the reality. And these poems are generally regarded as rebellious ones. From then on he begins to set him mind on rebellion. A few months later, he goes to the marshes. Why he writes the poems? Because he thinks his miserable situation is due to the corruption of the court.
There are always some unfair officials and he has to get rid of him if he wants to live a better life. From here we can say they all rebel for their freedom, for the unfair things. Rebellion is the core of their spirits. (2) All these three books are not the original creation of the authors. The story of Satan comes directly from Bible. Folklores are the soil of the Heroes of the Marshes and The Pilgrimage to the West. But the three figures are endowed with fresh meanings. Milton wrote the story with great willpower and pain. Satan in Paradise Lost therefore becomes much more vivid than he is in Bible.
A real strong-minded Satan with heart full of hatred and rebellious ideas appears after we read the epic. Milton is trying to tell us, Satans, and the Puritans or bourgeois wills are unconquerable. Song Jiang is a figure that arouses much argument and dispute. Some say the story of Song Jiang is trying to tell us rebellion is not the way out and one should be loyal to the emperor at that time, what does Song Jiang do is the best choice. Some say Song Jiangs loyalty to the emperor ends the glorious history of the heroes of the marshes and Song Jiang is the one to blame.
In literary world, only the greatest figures are worth of much criticism. Song Jiang arouses critics interests because his nature and his deeds is the representation of the time. Although under the cloak of fairytale, The Pilgrimage to the West sure is not standing only on the height of childrens story and the monkey king is not merely a funny being monkeying around. He lives in reality. The authors intention is to create a figure that shows no mercy and cowardice to the magnates. (3) Both Satan and the monkey king are very proud of themselves.
In Satans speech to the angels, there are no words showing his esteem to the God. He describes the God as a tyrant. When the monkey king is fighting with the immortals in the Asgard, he calls the God as the old thing. And he never shows his esteem to the immortals except to the biggest Bodhisattvas. They think that they are superior, at least equal, to the Gods. However Song Jiang is not the same case. He is very loyal to the emperor. An imperials edict can make him do anything. Some may say thats because Paradise Lost and The Pilgrimage to the West are fairytales while Heroes of the Marshes is based on somewhat reality.
Yes, man in reality always has his weakness, and the weakness is due to his social and historical background and his personality. Maybe thats why people like to read fairytales. Satan is a great hero when he addresses his fellow angels. He says: In dubious Battle on the Plains of Heavn, And shook his throne. What though the field be lost? All is lost; the unconquerable Will, And study of revenge, immortal hate, And courage never to submit or yield: And what is the else to be overcome? (Line104-110 Book I) Although trapped in Hell, he never loses his courage and ambition.
But it is only in the first two books of the Paradise Lost that Satan seems heroic. There is grandeur but no heroism in his later soliloquies and after the seduction of Eve he departs to Hell, leaving to world to his vice-gerents Sin and Death. The first shock to any admiration for him in a readers mind comes when he meets his allegorical daughter Sin and his incestuously begotten grandson Death at Hells gates (Book II 678-883). There is no doubt of Miltons intent to degrade him, step by step, down to the scene of his second and involuntary appearance in serpent form in Book X.
In Heroes of the Marshes, we see Song Jiang as a great hero when all the one hundred and eight heroes and heroines gather in the Liang Shan Bo. Before Song Jiang go to Liang Shan Bo, he is very generous to the people, after he goes there, he is very kind to his fellowmen and fights together with them. But at the end of the story he betrays many of his fellows will and leads them to the unhappy ending. After we read the whole story of the monkey king we cannot but call him a great hero. He succeeds in fighting with the evils and finally ends his story with a gratifying ending.
He is a big winner. However, the readers of Paradise Lost and Heroes of the Marshes are bewildered: after reading these two books, they remember the first parts of the stories much clearer than the ending. The heroic deed and speech give them the deepest impression. When they think about Satan and Song Jiang, they still take them as great rebels. Here the culture backgrounds must have their influence. According to Aristotle, western poetry should put emphases on the imitation, conflict, structure plot and characteristics whereas Chinese put more emphases on the moral content of the stories.
Some say Paradise Lost is an epic built out of dramas. From Ben Johnson to Shakespeare, western playwright began to put much more emphases on the characteristics of the characters than before. Hamlet is the best example. In Miltons period, characterization was of great importance. God is unsurpassed, omnipotent and omnipresent while Satan is the father of all the evils. If we set our eyes only on the moral content of the Paradise Lost, Satan is nothing but a devil. What westerners treasure is his nature, the nature of strong-willed beings. Satans speech is the best testimony.
Chinese Classic novels always start with a break and change of a peaceful situation. A virtuous man encounters troubles and the cause of the troubles is always some specific evil power, tragedy of nature is something rare to find in various ancient Chinese novels. Persecution and anti-persecution are the plot but not the theme of the stories. The authors are trying to do two things: one is trying to find out the moral causation of all these troubles; the other is to evaluate good and evil. The criteria of the evaluation of good or evil are very simple: loyalty, faithfulness and morals.
One should be Loyal to his majesty and loyal to his friends and to people and faithful to his family and superiors. Yue Fei is a bona fide hero because he is loyal to his majesty and to all the Chinese. Viewed from a modern mans eye, Song Jiangs heroic deeds are not very heroic because he shows too much loyalty to the emperor. In ancient China rebellion is condemned by morals. Ever since the beginning of the rebellion, he thinks that his rebel is not a righteous thing. And entering the political state is the home to return to. His thoughts lead the heroes to a miserable ending.
However, the gratifying ending of the monkey king story seems not that gratifying. We like to see the monkey to do whatever he likes, to live in an unbound way, not to become a Bodhisattva. It seems the cute, rebellious, bellicose monkey becomes a lamb. (4)Satans rebellion is the most complete and the least weak-kneed among these three rebels. The monkey king believes in nothing and belongs to nobody at the very beginning. After he is buried under the Wu-Zhi Mountain, his mind begins to change. In order to get out from the foot of the mountain, he chooses to obey the Bodhisattva and becomes prentice of Tang San-Zang.
In fact, the monkey kings obedience is only with the Bodhisattva. He is never afraid of or obedient to the immortals and evils, no matter whatever position they own in the Asgard. Even the layman of Chinese culture knows the importance of Buddhism. We cannot assert that the monkey kings obedience to the Bodhisattvas is just his weakness. On the contrary, the monkey finds the home to return to, which is the Buddhism. But at least we can say: the monkey king cannot find the home he belongs to if the Bodhisattvas dont force him and if he doesnt obey. Why the heroes go to the marshes? Because most of them have no choice.
If they dont rebel, they have to run from place to place to hide or they will be put to death. Song Jiang would never rebel if he could still survive. Rebellious nature is rooted in every human being as the nature of weakness is. Maybe we can say Song Jiang has more weak points in his nature than the other two is because Shi Nai-an was creating a real person. And real persons always have more weakness than we expect. Many rebellion leaders in ancient China did have Song Jiangs personality. In recent years Satan has been too often and too easily compared with Mussolini and Hitler, but such analogies are not very helpful.
Nor is it helpful to compared Satan with Cromwell. It is clear that in drawing his portrait of Satan Milton was objective. Its weakness is its greatness-its power to fool readers into its own delusion of power and make them say that Miltons Satan is a noble anticipation of Nietzschean superman. If, to give the devil his due, we must say that in the first two books of Paradise Lost he is drawn with too many virtues, the answer is perhaps in the Socrates words in the Republic when he says that the finer virtues-courage, temperance, and the rest-belong to the most evil men.
Actually its not worthwhile to try hard to find out the archetype of Satan, nor is it worthwhile to criticize the evil of Satan. What we need is Satans spirit, courage and so on. As we all know, Milton wrote Paradise in great hatred. We certainly cannot say his creation is an arts for arts sake stuff. It was the persecution that gave him the desire of writing something. He succeeded in creating the image of Satan and in inspiring his Puritan fellows. Satan gave them courage to fight back. However, the authors of the two Chinese novels had not had such mood as Milton had during their time of writing.
Maybe we can say the purposes of writing Heroes of the Marshes and The Pilgrimage to the West are not as clear as Miltons. But Satan belongs not only to Milton and his fellows, but belongs to the world. So are the Monkey king and Song Jiang. But we can feel that Satan is somewhat greater in his rebellious spirit, not in his evil of course, than the other two. Here we are not going to consider the Miltonic style—the grand style as an influential element. The monkeys rebellion is the rebellion for his personal freedom and stays in the height of freedom of individuality.
The only reason for him to rebel is that he wants to do whatever he likes while the Gods are not likely to let him has their permission. In Short, Song Jiang rebels to survive, rebels for existence. Once he achieves this goal, his rebellion ends. That is why Heroes of the Marshes has an unhappy ending. Satan is different. He is trying to seek his and his companys freedom. And his freedom is merely the freedom of individuality. He is trying to justify Gods injustice. His rebellion is surely not for merely survival either.
Can we say the harsh environment of Hell is better than Heavens? If Satan has Song Jiangs nature he would live happily in Heaven without the slightest idea of rebellion. In Satans Speech he suggests that Hell is better than Heaven as long as Heaven is reined by God, though the heat of burning things is hard to endure, because he has more freedom in Hell. Therefore, Satans rebellion is not confined within certain limits. We can take this kind of rebellious spirits as something grand. We should say Miltons mind was opened and therefore Satans spirits has aroused universal concern.